Roslindale substation plans could expand to include funeral home next door

Two non-profits that have been trying to turn the hulking brick husk of an old trolley substation in Roslindale Square into something useable say they now want to buy the funeral home next door for housing.

In an e-mail update this morning, Steve Gag and Stephanie Cave of Roslindale Village Main Street say the FJ Higgins Funeral Home on Washington Street is now up for sale - and that the Higgins family has agreed to give the group and Historic Boston first dibs on the property as the family prepares to move the funeral home to a new location.

Gag and Cave say they don't want to let the property fall into the hands of a developer who would use it for something un-Roslindale-Square-like - such as a fast-food drive-thru:

If put up for sale on the open real estate market, the site of the funeral home could very likely attract the interest of a developer who does not share our vision of creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly business district, someone who might try to install a drive-thru business on Washington Street, or a parking lot for some other business. Because of the community's vocal reaction to the Domino's Pizza that was proposed on the same block, we feel duty-bound to try to bring about an outcome that will add more value to our business district.

Instead, the groups would seek to buy the parcel and turn it into a 40-unit residential building - with a 40-space underground garage. The building's height would be "slightly lower" than the substation's, they write, adding that six of the residential units would be designated as "affordable."

The two also signaled a subtle change in plans for the substation itself. The original idea was to build a function facility with room for a winter farmers' market. Now, they say the two groups are looking at building out "7,500 square feet of retail space, including a restaurant and coffee bar and a market for fresh produce."

They added they're working on a public meeting for January to detail the proposals.

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    Comments

    Good intentions but where is the money and what is true market

    I hope they are successful, but it seems to me we need to find a developer who shares a vision of creating such a space and has some marketing data to support attracting tenants. I will never understand how, when there are vacant storefronts and subsistence businesses, someone can come in and put up a building and hope tenants show up (the SSA/Subway building).

    Is the maket demand really for dominos and drive-throughs? The Subway--which I was initially displeased to see--is actually a great addition to the square. One could imagine something like a mini-Faneuell hall or Pike Place market anchored by the substation. But who's going to put up millions of dollars to develop it? You're not going to get that from passing the plate around a "concerned citizens" meeting.

    Pleased about Subway?! It's a disaster!

    The Subway--which I was initially displeased to see--is actually a great addition to the square.

    That Subway has done nothing good for Rosi square. People are constantly double parking in the right hand active traffic lane to run in and order/pickup food - screwing up an already bottlenecked road. There's also been a lot more Subway-branded trash blowing around the square.

    I don't know if there's been any significant negative impact on food sales at the other locally owned vendors in the square, but I do know that thousands of dollars a month that would stay in the neighborhood (or at least the state) if spent in a non-franchise business are sucked away via Subway's franchise/royalty/advertising fees and dedicated-supplier requirements.

    I have a Subway in my area

    I have a Subway in my area and I love it. They have specials all the time, you can get a member card that gives you rewards.
    One of those 12 inch subs, because of the way they load it up...you could live off of it for 2 days if you had to!

    Romano's?

    Place is GARBAGE! Troop it to Checkmate or A&N, Romano's establishment is dirt and their pizza taste like cardboard. They should be strictly a Mexican place(their Mexican food is awesome)they have no business making pizza or subs.

    Not a fan of Roachmano's

    The one time I went to Romano's, after I ordered my tamale, I noticed a giant cockroach hanging out in the middle of the dining room. Needless to say, I didn't eat the tamale, and haven't been back since.

    It's not in the Square, but I really like MJ's on Belgrade for both subs and pizza.

    Subway is awesome

    I was not thrilled at a national chain moving in. I thought, "oh great, this is the best they can do?" But the reality is that it is a convenient semi-healthy place I can walk to with my kids on the way home from the RCC or on our way to the Library. The people running the store are friendly and if it just didn't have that national franchise banner on it, I think everyone would be thrilled about it.
    I cannot imagine the Subway is hurting the nearby restaurants except through illustrating potential customers they lost a long time ago. Places like Imperial Kitchen, Romanovs, Wapo Taco...I tried em all once and no need to go back. What the square needs next is a coffee shop--not another Dunkins--but something more like a Pete's, Equal Exchange, or, dare I say, Starbucks.

    Not JP Licks

    It was an Emack & Bolio's franchise. Trust me on this, I spent a good part of the kidlet's formative years in there, back when they still had a couch and loveseat with cushions that were just right for making forts out of.

    Yep, it *was* E&B (who are also a local company)

    And I think it used to be quite a bit busier than it is now, but then the ownership changed about five or so years ago, and they haven't done as good a job of promoting/updating it.

    ***

    But speaking of Jimmies, I just talked with Donna Cabral, the owner. She was saying that she'd love to expand into the new Washington retail bldg with a more cafe-style coffee/ice-cream/creperie business. (Jimmies expanded its coffee menu a few months ago, but it hasn't really caught on - mostly due, Donna says, to the current lack of sitting/lounging space).

    I think a coffeehouse/cafe in the Washington bldg would be a great idea - anyone who'd like to see that too should drop in and encourage her.

    (Of course, for all my mass-quantity (5+ gal) purchases of locally made ice cream , I go to the Puritan Ice Cream Co near Forest Hills. Good quality, several dozen flavors, freshly made, at wholesale prices. Huge $ saver for birthday parties, school events etc).

    Fornax

    has great coffee, and pastries to boot! It can get crowded in there though, so perhaps not an in-and-out type of place. What about that Select Cafe joint in the corner building across from the Commuter Rail station? I used to go there before waiting for the train, and thought their joe was okay. Interesting too in that it felt like an Eastern European social club whenever I went in.

    Albanians huh?

    Well I'll be darned. There is the one woman who works the register, don't forget her. She might be the only one fluent in English in place. Oh, and maybe her son was there sometimes? A younger fella, maybe late-20's?

    the only other coffee shop,

    the only other coffee shop, select cafe, is in a great location, but the current ownership needs to up their game - either go all out albanian coffee shop (which as far as I know doesn't really exist around here), or take a cue from one of the numerous "hip" coffee shops in the boston area and have interesting pastries and unique sandwiches. they installed tvs - I don't go to coffee shop to watch tv.

    there's space up near fallon field that would be a good location for a coffee shop (there's a little brick area with benches next to vacant storefront), but the space next to the substation could also be something. coffee shop with a good vibe would get lots of use there. would be nicer if one of the local coffee places opened up a branch.

    also - I'm not sure why RMVS is trepidatious about the residential component - the square needs more young professionals and grad students.

    I'd also really like to see a bike shop open in the square - It would get a lot of business.

    I thought the holdup WAS the funeral home

    There was a time when someone proposed a hip new restaurant but said they couldn't do it because the funeral home wouldn't share parking or somesuch. Why can't a restarateur buy the whole kit and caboodle and do that?

    Not sure if it's viable - but it would definitely be a cool space for a new restaurant.

    That said - I think the whole square at present may be a little "overfooded" for the traffic, despite some great places in the 'hood.

    Substation

    Great that the funeral home parcel can be combined with the Substation, and that they've brought in a private developer for the funding and the expertise - it looks like a good project might actually happen here after so many years of effort. And this slightly shabby side of the Square is a great place for new development and new residences, especially with all the public transportation options nearby and the public parking lot at Taft Hill right across the street.